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Published April 19, 2024

‘Back for More’: Gophers gymnastics advances to the NCAA National Championships

Minnesota has clinched a spot in back-to-back NCAA National Championships appearances for the first time in the program’s history.
Mya Hooten, courtesy of Bjorn Franke – Gopher Athletics.

As the top two teams of four from each Regional final advance to the NCAA National Championships, No. 8 Minnesota needed their floor team to be the cornerstone they have been all season. The Gophers trailed second-place No. 9 California by 0.100, heading into the final rotation of the meet Saturday evening, looking in from the outside.

With all the pressure on the shoulders of the floor team, Minnesota’s No. 2 ranked floor team showed the crowd, and the nation, at the Norman Regional final why they are one of the best floor teams in women’s gymnastics.

In the final rotation, the floor team totaled 49.650, led by sophomore Mya Hooten’s dazzling title-winning routine of 9.975. Every scoring routine earned at least 9.900, helping fuel the Gophers to the NCAA National Championships in back-to-back seasons for the first time in program history, as California’s vault team scored 49.125.

“We just have such a wonderful group and this means so much to them to be back there and get that experience again,” Gophers head coach Jenny Hansen said. “There were just so many wonderful things to take away from this weekend. This was the goal, to get back there [Nationals]. ‘Back for More.’ That was our motto, so we’re back for more.”

Minnesota finished the meet in second place with 197.725, which comes as the sixth-highest score in program history as six of the program’s top eight team totals have occurred this season alone.

The Gophers’ season stays alive alongside No. 1 Oklahoma, who finished in first place after accumulating 198.250. On the other hand, California’s (197.300) and Arkansas’ (196.675) seasons have come to a close.

“It means so much to us [to advance]. We put in so much work the past couple of weeks to get to this point,” Fifth-year Ona Loper said on the ESPN+ broadcast after the meet. “I’m just so proud of every single member on this team.”

Loper helped pave the way for Minnesota as she won the all-around title for a second-straight meet after totaling 39.700, which included tying her career-best on floor (9.950).
A veteran for the Gophers, Loper did not have one routine across her all-around that scored less than 9.900. She matched her floor score on vault and tallied matching 9.900s on bars and beam.

“It’s all because of the team. They put so much trust in me and I really wouldn’t be where I am today without them,” Loper said of her consistency on the ESPN+ broadcast after the meet. “Lexy Ramler as well. She pushes me every single day in the gym…I couldn’t be more thankful to experience this journey with her.”

Ramler, Loper’s fifth-year counterpart, finished second in the all-around competition (39.600). Her best event score of the evening came on vault at 9.925, while she rounded out her strong meet with matching 9.900s on beam and floor and 9.875 on bars.

The vault team opened the Norman Regional final for the Gophers and got them rolling as they totaled their highest postseason team total in program history at 49.550.

Four of the five scoring routines scored at least 9.900, with senior Maddie Quarles leading the charge as she posted a career-high 9.975 to win a share of the vault title. Hooten (9.900) added the fourth routine that scored at least 9.900 outside Loper and Ramler.

Minnesota’s bars and beam teams performed in the middle rotations, scoring 49.275 and 49.250, respectively, where senior Ali Sonier tied her season-high on bars (9.800).

“The most important thing is we hit all of our routines. That’s really difficult to do. We hit 24 of 24 routines, so that was huge for us. It doesn’t happen very often throughout the season,” Hansen said. “We can use that going into Nationals and know that if we can hit our routines, we’re going to make a statement.”

The Gophers will compete against California, No. 4 Utah and No. 5 Alabama in the NCAA Championships semifinals round on Thursday, April 14, in Fort Worth, Texas.

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